20 December 2010

It's almost here!

Along with the rest of the world, we're counting down the days to Christmas. Which, in reality, isn't the fun all in the anticipation?

Forgive me for reliving a few of our favorite anticipatory activities.

Day after Thanksgiving... out came the Christmas tree, on came the music (I think Jeff will scream if he has to hear Christmas music even one day past the actual day), and we ventured to one of our favorite places to start the season off right.

Have I shared how much we love This is the Place National Park? I'm kidding. I know I've talked about it (and talked and talked), but in the last 6-7 months, we've made a LOT of memories there. We added another evening of memories when we went to enjoy Candlelight Christmas the night after Thanksgiving. It was the first time we'd been, and I dare say (which I don't do lightly, because I have a problem with committing) it's a new tradition. We all loved it.

Jack signed the "nice" list. Mostly true. Jeff was lured into signing the "naughty" list though, since the candy was better for the "naughty". Go figure.

We spent the evening wandering from house to house hearing stories, making crafts, and dancing around the Christmas tree, to live music, I might add. We enjoyed a live puppet show...

...drank hot chocolate

...and couldn't get enough of their amazing carolers. They wandered around the village, so we were lucky to hear them a few different times. The kids were a little more interested in their craft at this moment, but I could have listened to them all night long. And I loved the costuming.

We drove home to the kids singing "Up on the Housetop". Or at least the words that we actually know of it. It was such a nice, low-key evening, that reminded us of the simplicity of Christmas. Everyone was happy.

Or, should I say... we were all happy, until we discovered that our picture with Father Christmas was BLURRY! Very disappointing. Although, we felt everything else was so perfect, we could let this one go.

My favorite part about Christmas shopping... Amazon. Love it. Anyone else giving their UPS man a present this year? I've seen him more this month than some of my neighbors!

We've enjoyed two different evenings on Temple Square this year. One evening was to listen to my niece's choir sing. It was a lovely evening, only to be enhanced by Mimi and Papa taking our kids home to bed, and Jeff and I enjoying an evening at the Symphony. Oh, I love a good date with the hubby.

Alice... during our most recent light-seeing evening/one hour I got to see Jeff that day. She finally let me put mittens on her. Well, one.

I just finished playing in my favorite Christmas concert series yet. Oh, what a joy it is to play my violin with such accomplished musicians! I feel a bit unworthy to be surrounded by such high-caliber people, but at the same time so grateful for the opportunity. Jeff's been a rock this week in letting me run off to rehearsals and concerts.

He stayed up one night to help Jack finish off his poster project... (Jack was dressed up for "famous person day")

... he took the kids to Jack's school Christmas concert... (they're beating along to a very lively version of Feliz Navidad.)

...the ward party last night (please note Jack's version of a shepherd's crook)...

... and all month he's been a single parent for most of the church block. Talk about amazing.

Then, Jeff lets me come home and tell him every detail about how fun it's all been. Wish I could say MUCH more.

These are two of my favorite girls in the orchestra. Talk about high caliber people... these girls are leading the pack.

It was a busy, exhausting, fun, and spiritually fulfilling week of Christmas spirit. Now, I get to actually be HOME and enjoy downtime with those I love more than anything.

We hope you enjoy these fun last few days of anticipation! Merry Christmas!

22 November 2010

10 years

As much as I don’t love to admit it, Jeff is right a lot of the time. He has a good, common sense, realistic perspective that usually makes more sense than whatever direction my emotions are tugging me at the moment. Or the next moment, which is usually an entirely different direction all together. When the idea of going away for our anniversary came up, we were both on board from the beginning. We realized that this could be our “perfect storm” to get away. Close to all the family, not pregnant, not nursing, vacation days to spare, and everyone is well adjusted and sleeping through the night. Then, I started having cold feet about leaving the children. Jeff said it would be worth it. He promised me the kids would be fine, and we would have the time of our lives. Of course, he was right.

Reasons why I’m glad Jeff was right:

1. We had an entire week of uninterrupted conversations, and even enough time together that we could simply enjoy shared silence. Who knew that could be such a treasure?

2. We both love big cities. We love places we can go and NOT drive. We love to walk and make use of whatever public transportation cities have to offer. We’ve ridden trains, buses, trolleys, and monorails in cities all over the world, and we love seeing how each city has a unique take on moving its people.

3. I mentioned walking. We walked and walked and walked. Miles and miles, hand in hand (not four hands in between us), over bad sidewalks at times even, but we didn’t notice because we had NO stroller. We love walking and exploring.

One of our discoveries while walking.

4. We visited the local market at least once each day, bought raspberries, watched them throw fish, ate delicious deli sandwiches, and enjoyed street musicians. I love street musicians. Good or bad, you gotta hand it to ‘em. That takes guts.

6. We wandered into thrift and antique stores and browsed all we wanted. We even found some amazing polyester ties to add to Jeff’s collection. We couldn’t believe our luck!

7. We visited museums and stayed as long (or as short) as we wanted. One we stayed for only 30 minutes, but our favorite (the Museum of flight) we stayed for several hours. We even walked through a retired Air Force One.

8. We went to a comedy show one evening and didn’t even need to find a sitter.

9. We didn’t stop our day for nap time, or to eat at places that serve chicken nuggets. We didn’t pack snacks, and we didn’t carry sippy cups. We ate wherever and whenever we wanted. Good food partnered by conversations with complete sentences. How do you beat that?

520 ft up

10. We lay in our hotel bed, watched movies, TV shows, ate yummy things, and went to bed late. And then, we slept in.

11. What should have been a 30 minute trip to find the temple, took us 2 hours. And we loved it.

12. We found a trail along the waterfront and ran on it. Together. Twice. In all the years we’ve enjoyed running (more years for Jeff than for me), we’ve never, ever run together. We had two very nice 10K runs that we agree are two of our favorite memories of the week. (Cue the fantasies of when our kids are old enough to leave behind, and we get to do this regularly.)

13. We were mistaken for honeymooners. That was fun, considering it’s been 10 years. And at the same time, our tour guide sang a lovely rendition of “Popcorn Popping” when he found out we were from Utah.

14. We ate breakfast in a “hole in the wall” diner. Generally, I think it’s a waste to eat out for breakfast because I’m quite happy eating simple things for breakfast, and breakfast food for lunch or dinner (a staple in our house). But, we have a very specific memory of our time in San Francisco that included a breakfast diner we all fell in love with. So, we reminisced with food, and were not disappointed.

15. We watched glass blowers. We never would have dared go past the front doors of that shop with the children.

16. We found a candy shop. We kind of like candy. We felt like two kids in a candy shop. Oh wait… We picked two of every candy that looked good and sampled them all as we walked along the pier. Fun.

I wasn’t going to blog about our trip because as we think back on it, that time feels almost sacred. That time together was so priceless. Then, after talking with our home teachers (who we adore), one of them was telling us about how he can’t get his wife to leave his children to take the 10 day trip to Rome he just won from his work. WHAT?!? Okay, I get it. It’s definitely hard to leave the children. And sometimes it felt like it would almost have been easier to take them. But, honestly, it was worth every bit of planning, coordinating, packing, and changing schedules. So, if you’re debating about taking a little time out for you and your spouse, do it. Make it happen. Because Jeff is right. It’s so worth it.

P.S. Thank you, family, for taking time out of YOUR busy schedules to make it possible. Let’s talk about our number ONE blessing: it’s YOU.

The biggest thing lacking in our trip with no kids: no pictures of kids. They are much cuter than we are, as I'm sure you've already discovered.

01 November 2010

Halloween, of course

I love Halloween more and more each year. Thank goodness for children who keep the innocence of Halloween in tact.

Oh, so many Halloween outings this year! Jane was the only one who wore the same costume each time. Alice gets the award for variety. Jack gets the award for being the only bloodless Dracula in town.

The annual pumpkin picking event.

They just HAD to try doing a wheelbarrow together, of course. I love fall. Shorts and sandals, topped off with a sweater all in one. Love it.

Jane may appear to be helping hollow out the pumpkins, but don't be deceived. This is the closest she came... holding up what I scooped out. A bit slimy for this child!

Jeff and Jack did the scooping, while Alice and I did the dishes. Jane's a good cheerleader. Did I mention our dishwasher leaking, floor warping, and mold issue? No? Lucky you.

This is The Place does a "Little Haunts" over UEA that was brilliant. My kids could have walked around that pioneer village and listened to that Story Witch for hours. Oh wait, we did. Alice was Jane's black cat, and Jack was Batman. I only had my phone, plus the lighting was weird, but I loved Alice's grin. I couldn't resist.

If it's her idea, she loves the camera!

For story time at the library, Alice was Dorothy, so I just kept her in her dress all day. Why not? I'll tell you why not...

Not long before leaving for Grandma Hillman's Halloween party, I caught Alice doing this...

... to the candy dish.

She's got a sweet tooth. I'll claim that one. This resulted in a very sticky, spit-y Dorothy costume.

So, she was a witch, just like her sister. And apparently Grandpa!

The kids counted down all month to the NIGHT they got to dress up and go to the ward's Trunk or Treat. They were giddy with anticipation. They even tried taking off on Jane's broomstick, but didn't get very far.

We put Alice in the warmest thing we had, Tigger. The only time she's been fat in her life. Notice Jane opening her mouth at the same time as Alice. We all know that helps babies open up wider, right?

Alice enjoyed the evening's bounty.

Our neighbors put on a haunted house that Jack thought was awesome, and I have to admit, it was fun. Jane wanted to go through at first, but she ended up in my arms and screamed like crazy when the masked kid came around the corner. It was a scream like I've never screamed. The kind they should bottle up for the movies. Then, after assuring the mother of the home that she was okay, while at the same time preparing my thoughts of what to tell the therapist we'd surely have to take her to, Jane announced she wanted to go through again. She said she'd be brave this time. And she was. Then she wanted to go again, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

We actually did go door to door on our street and to a few select neighbors a few streets over on Saturday night. We were worried the whole neighborhood trick-or-treating was a thing of the past, but were glad to see others out, even in the rain.

Did you have many trick-or-treaters at your house? Did you go door-to-door? The mall? The grocery store?

18 October 2010

I'm a dreamer

Generally speaking, I'm the dreamer in this marriage. Jeff is what I like to call "my reality check". I talk all the time about all the places we'll visit, the things we'll do, how I'd like certain situations to go, experiences that will come our way, what we'll be like when we're older, and so on. I know I don't have control over what life throws my way. And it must be said that sometimes things come our way that are much better than I've dreamed (I'm really not that creative!). Regardless, it's fun for me to dream and hope things go accordingly.

So when I heard from our friends that they might be coming to Utah for Conference weekend, I hardly dared hope it would really happen. If fact, after talking to "my reality check" we determined there's no way they could get the proper paper work and plan their trip in such a short time, so we hoped that they would make it in six months for the next conference. THEN, it started happening. Visas were given, passports obtained, flights purchased, and temple dates set.

When we had to say goodbye to Napa and Dipu in Thailand, (the post in this link is long...you've been warned) I bawled. I felt terrible for taking our children away from people who loved them so much. We promised we'd be together again, that they'd come to Utah, and we would stay in touch. I knew staying in touch was a given, but could they really get to Utah? Really? I hoped, but I remained skeptical. It's amazing what the Lord can make happen though, is it not?

We weren't sure what Jane (our extremely unpredictable child) would do when she saw them. Would she remember how much she loved them? All the memories? She was only three! Jeff took her to pick them up from their hotel, and she ran right into their arms, just like no time had passed. We spent the evening assembling 3-D puzzles they brought for the kids and catching up on their traveling adventures.

They arrived just in time for conference weekend and attended all five sessions. I was lucky enough to attend the temple when they went through for the first time, and the following morning, they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.

At the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, we were surprised to meet the man who would be sealing them the next day. Turns out, their son is the one who taught their temple preparation class in Bangkok before coming to Utah. Small world.

You'd think coming from Thailand, they wouldn't know too many people, but these two have people who love them all over the world. Missionaries, parents of missionaries, ward members, and even the branch president of Nepal (Dipu's country) who just happened to be in town receiving a humanitarian award. Talk about the stars aligning. It was one happy gathering.

This is shortly after coming out of the temple. Napa always smiles, but this was an entirely different plane of happiness.

The happy couple.

The whole thing was such a whirlwind, but we did have some time just to be together at home as well. We played a little soccer in the backyard...

The kids gave them a concert... (Jane hadn't started violin yet when we left)

... Jane discovered that there was a reason Napa is still learning to read English... because she usually reads in Thai! Jane was AMAZED Napa could read the Thai books we have around the house that we usually just look at.

... and I even caught Napa and Jane passed out on the bed from pure exhaustion. If it seemed like a whirlwind to us, I can't imagine what it felt like after all the traveling.

When Jane first met Napa and Dipu, she wasn't much older than Alice is now. Those memories seemed so fresh as we watched Alice fall completely in love with them, just like Jack and Jane did.

I think this is my favorite picture.

Jack: Mom, Dipu and Napa are our family, right?

Me: Absolutely.

02 August 2010

Pioneer Day

I think Pioneers have been more a part of our life this year than ever before. We've loved our time at This is the Place Heritage Park. Jack keeps making me promise that we'll do it again next year. I fully plan on it, if they'll have us.

This is Elora, the hired BYU history major who keeps things moving at our "home". We all adore her, but Jane in particular is a big fan (although from Jane's face in this one, you might not know it).

We had a special Pioneer Day weekend, starting with our usual Friday at the park, but it wasn't usual at all. We had a bunch of our family come up to visit, and as we arrived at the house we realized the Mormon Battalion (reenactment) was camping in our back yard! The Battalion gathered from all over the country for the weekend, and it was fun to visit with many of them as we enjoyed the festivities of the day.

My sisters, their husbands, kids, my parents (including my mom who was only 8 weeks out of getting a portion of her lung removed), and my grandparents all came to play.

We got out our fiddles, guitars, and mandolins, and tried to remember how we used to be able to play a mean "Devil Went Down to Georgia". It's not so mean anymore. Actually, there was a lot of laughter, but it was fun nonetheless.

Our pioneer neighbors (a family of 9) came down with their instruments and we all danced the Virginia Reel with whoever would join us. The kids were loving it. Wish I had a picture of that, but I was too busy dancing with my boy. Jack, not Jeff. Do you know my husband at all?

We left from the pioneer village to Lake Town, UT to stay with our friend Wyatt's family. We loved our time with the Lamborn's last time and just couldn't stay away, especially since the Quan's were in town. During their trek from Bangkok to DC, they made a stop in Lake Town. Who doesn't? So finally, little Alice got to meet big Alice. All five feet of her. Maybe Alices are just supposed to be small?

We spent the evening and all the next day with these two sweet families. Jack and Jane couldn't get enough of Sarah and Emily, and I could have visited with the Quans, Wyatt and his family for days.

We took the kids for a quick horse ride, and got some pictures...

(The locals thought it was hilarious that we thought hay was a great backdrop for pictures. Yes, we are city folk.)

A family portrait where you can actually see everyone's face. Almost.

... and the next day we enjoyed a delicious pioneer day breakfast with the one and only Lake Town ward. I love small towns. Plus, we figured out that Wyatt's sister-in-law is my childhood friend's cousin. Did you get that? I knew there was a reason I liked Amy so much.

Wyatt volunteered all of us to play in their town's Pioneer Day talent show. Thanks Wyatt. Sarah and Emily Quan, at the ages of 10 and 14 are much better musicians (violin and piano) than I'll ever be, so I basked in their talent and passion and loved how involved and supportive Alice and Steven are with them. Jeff and I did play a little piece. Just because we've decided we'll pretty much do anything for this family.

Keeping little Alice happy during the program.

Then, we enjoyed probably my favorite parade ever. There were about 10 floats (tractors, 4-wheelers, trucks, plus some) and they threw TONS of candy. So much candy that there were no tears and no clashes between kids trying to get the same piece. Then, after the floats had passed, we cut through the block and met the floats all over again as they went around the other side of the block. Short+no crowds+all smiles = best parade ever.

We just had to get a photo of the whole Bangkok crew. Quans, Wyatt, and the Hillmans. We might look a little nervous, because to be honest, we were all a little worried about the trampoline not holding. Thank goodness one of these families has small genes.

These three sure made a connection. It was hard when Jack had to say goodbye, knowing it would be a while before he gets to see his friends again.

It wasn't just Jack that hated to say goodbye. Who knows when we'll see our world traveling friend again.? Luckily, we at least know how to see Wyatt.